Beki Grinter

My Mum: An Ada Lovelace Post

In academia, computer science, HCI, research, women on October 7, 2011 at 10:52 am

It’s Ada Lovelace day and time to write about someone who influenced you, a role model, for Computing.

Last year I wrote about all the wonderful women I work with and have worked with and who continue to inspire me in a myriad of different ways.

Today I want to tell you about my Mum.

Long before my first class in Computer Science. Long before the three degrees (B.Sc., M.S., and Ph.D., all in CS) there was my Mum.

When I was quite small she started her own business. One that required her to go back to School to take classes and pass an exam (to be qualified in her area, she’s a licensed translator from German to English). She’d take me a long to some of them, particularly when my Dad was working late. She worked really hard, not just in class, but also at home. I remember that. Then there were the years when she had to grow her business, enough for it to be sustainable and profitable. Those were hard times for her, working at the business as well as marketing the business and sourcing new leads and all the rest of those things. She had passion and determination, and I remember that too.

The business was successful, it still is (although there is less of it now and my Mum is enjoying her retirement built in good part on the proceeds of that business).

My Mum originally had a typewriter for her business but she upgraded to a computer at home when they became affordable (the BBC). I remember seeing her working hard on the machine. I remember her complaints about what it didn’t do well, like explain its errors and whims in an accessible way. Perhaps that influenced my decision to move into Human Computer Interaction, because at home I certainly watched some Human Computer Ire.

And then there was the typing class. She told that to be able to type was a key to the future. Whatever I did, typing would help. There was no doubt in her mind. She doesn’t know that even despite taking this week long course I still can’t touch type. Perhaps she does but she’s been kind enough not to mention the fact that I hop around my keyboard using just a subset of the available ten digits. But, she was right, an ability to use a keyboard is central in modern life.

In a 1000 different ways, my Mum is the reason that I’m in Computing, and have chosen a career that is at once consuming and rewarding. I learnt about a passion for individual career success from her. I learnt about machinery and purposing it to be successful. While it’s probably true that my Dad had more influence on me becoming a scholar (he’s an academic too) I just wouldn’t be the person I am without my Mum.

So this Ada Lovelace day I say thank you to my Mum, thank you for your encouragement and unwavering support on top of your presence as a role model in my life. That to me is your love, and I love you too.

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